1947 Ceylonese parliamentary election

General elections were held in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) from 23 August to 20 September 1947. It was the first election overseen and administered by the newly formed Department of Parliamentary Elections.[1]

1st Ceylonese parliamentary election

← 1936 23 August 1947 - 20 September 1947 1952 →

95 seats to the House of Representatives of Ceylon
48 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Official Photographic Portrait of Don Stephen Senanayaka (1884-1952).jpg No image.svg
Leader D. S. Senanayake N. M. Perera
Party United National Party Lanka Sama Samaja Party
Leader since 1946 1945
Leader's seat Mirigama Ruwanwella
Seats won 42 10
Popular vote 751,432 204,020
Percentage 39.81% 10.81%

Prime Minister before election


Prime Minister-designate

D. S. Senanayake
United National Party


This is considered the first national election held in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon). Although it took place before independence was actually granted, it was the first election under the Soulbury Constitution.

Some of the major figures who had led the independence struggle were found in the rightwing United National Party led by D.S. Senanayake. In opposition were the Trotskyist Lanka Sama Samaja Party and Bolshevik Leninist Party of India, the Communist Party of Ceylon, the Ceylon Indian Congress and an array of independents.


Senanayake's UNP fell short of a majority, but was able to form a government in coalition with the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, which had taken most of the seats in the Tamil regions.

Sri Lanka obtained full independence as a dominion in 1948. The British nevertheless retained military bases in the country and English remained as the official language along with much of the administrative system put in place by the British along with British officials.

e • d Summary of the 1947 Ceylonese parliamentary election[2][a]
Party Candidates Votes % Seats
  United National Party 98 751,432 39.81% 42
  Lanka Sama Samaja Party 28 204,020 10.81% 10
  All Ceylon Tamil Congress 9 82,499 4.37% 7
  Ceylon Indian Congress 7 72,230 3.83% 6
  Bolshevik-Leninist Party /
Bolshevik Samasamaja Party
10 113,193 6.00% 5
  Communist Party of Ceylon 13 70,331 3.73% 3
  Ceylon Labour Party 9 38,932 2.06% 1
United Lanka Congress 2 3,953 0.21% 0
Swaraj Party 3 1,393 0.07% 0
  Independents 181 549,381 29.11% 21
Valid Votes 360 1,887,364 100.00% 95
Rejected Votes
Total Votes Polled
Total Electors Polled[b] 1,710,150
Registered Electors 3,048,145
Turnout[c] 56.10%


  1. ^ Some variation exists over the exact results.
  2. ^ Total electors polled is less than total votes polled due to multiple-member seats where electors can cast more than one vote.
  3. ^ Actual turnout was slightly higher due to H. S. Ismail (UNP) being elected from Puttalam Electoral District without a contest.


  1. ^ "Elections Department in the limelight". ft.lk. Daily Financial Times. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Table 31 Parliament Election (1947)". Sri Lanka Statistics. 10 February 2009.